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4/2/2013 10:00:00 AM
FMC to help Williams Elementary students get fit
Beginning in the fall, Flagstaff Medical Center's Fit Kids of Arizona program will help promote student activity and healthy eating

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter


WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Starting this fall, Williams Elementary School students will learn about staying active and eating right as part of Flagstaff Medical Center's (FMC) Fit Kids of Arizona program.

The Williams Unified School District (WUSD) Governing Board unanimously approved an agreement with FMC pending legal review at its March 27 meeting.

The program will provide daily exercise and health lessons for children in kindergarten to fifth grade at no cost to the district.

As part of the new program, FMC will pay for two additional full-time instructors with benefits, which costs $53,900. The instructors will lead a 40-minute per day class consisting of 20 minutes of structured exercise and 20 minutes of health education. The instructors will also lead structured activities at lunch recess.

"We will not use the word exercise, it's about structured activity, getting kids moving, doing fun things," said Richard Henn, director of Fit Kids of Arizona. "Our philosophy is, we don't have a gym in our clinic. We want to teach kids to do things that they can do at home when they leave. We really want to make those kind of things fun for them."

Currently Williams Elementary-Middle School students receive about 35 minutes of structured activity per week. With the new program, students will receive about 195 minutes per week.

The program will also pay for the HOPSports Training System, which costs $21,000. For this system, athletes lead an exercise program that is projected onto a screen, and students follow along using HOPSports equipment.

Another component of the program is Brain Breaks, which costs $3,500. Brain Breaks are two to five minute videos teachers can stream in their classrooms that incorporate exercise and educational components.

The program also provides a $1,500 stipend for a teacher to serve as a leader for the program.

In all, FMC will contribute $79,900 to pay for the program.

In return, WUSD will allow Fit Kids to measure the body mass index (BMI) of students at the beginning and end of every school year to track progress. Fit Kids will also consider improvements in students' academics and behavior during the program.

The program is expected to last for three to five years. While the first year of the program will serve kindergarten through fifth grade students, organizers hope to expand to sixth through eighth grade students in the second year and high school students in the third year.

In 2012, FMC's Board of Directors approved $1 million per year to go toward health and wellness programs for northern Arizona children.

In October 2012, Fit Kids started offering a free clinic in Williams once a month for kids who are at risk of becoming obese. Fit Kids also has clinics in FMC, Killip Elementary in Flagstaff, Camp Verde, Sedona and Cottonwood.

At the clinic, a nurse practitioner, behaviorist, dietician and exercise physiologist work to help children and families develop healthy eating habits and lifestyles. Most students are referred to the clinic, although parents can also make appointments.

About 25-30 students currently come to the clinic in Williams. The clinic usually takes place on the third Wednesday of each month from 2:30 to 6 p.m. at Williams Elementary-Middle School.

"The reason we're doing (the school program) is, the clinical piece really works with those kids that are already overweight and obese, that's what that program is about, but we have to get on the preventive side," Henn said.

He called pediatric obesity an epidemic.

"We don't think of it as a disease because these kids are running around and having a great time, and really look relatively healthy," he said. "But these kids are at such risk for problems."

Obese children are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to other health issues, Henn added.

Governing Board President David Nenne asked what would happen to the two full time teacher positions if FMC was unable to pay for them in the future. WUSD Business Manager Melissa Ellico said the positions would go away unless enrollment had grown.

Superintendent Rachel Savage said the program would work like any other non-graded special elementary students have, like art. The program would be worked into the schedule and would not take the place of the current physical education class.

Savage said the district is considering putting the HOPSports screen in the cafeteria since the space is vacant other than lunchtime.

"I just can't think of a negative, it's a win-win," she said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for our kids."

More information about the Fit Kids program is available at (928) 214-3537 or www.nahealth.com/ourservices/fitkidsofarizona.

The governing board also took the following actions:

• Unanimously approved the GovNet E-rate contract, which will improve the district's internet speed from about 3 megabites per second (mbps) to 30 mbps.

• Unanimously approved the grant resolution that the Arizona Department of Education requires for the Title 1 grant, which the district uses for math and reading intervention in the elementary school.






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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Article comment by: Bobby Patricca

Flagstaff Medical Center is paying for the program, not the.taxpayers nor the district itself.

Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Article comment by: JohnParry Jones

This is a waste of taxpayer money. This is a parental responsibility...not a school district's.



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